Java TM Look and Feel Design Guidelines: Advanced Topics > Part II: Special Topics > 7: Wizards > Deciding Whether You Need a Wizard   Previous Next Contents/Index/Search


Deciding Whether You Need a Wizard

Although wizards can simplify and expedite many kinds of tasks, creating a wizard is not always the best solution for such tasks. To decide whether creating a wizard is appropriate for a particular task, answer the following questions:

  • How complex is the task?
    Simple tasks seldom require wizards. Users can perform such tasks just as easily, if not more easily, with other kinds of user interfaces. For example, users might perform a simple task more quickly with a dialog box than with a three-page wizard.
    Consider providing a wizard for a task if the task is at least moderately complex.
  • Is the task performed by new users? Is the task performed rarely?
    If you answered "yes" to either question, then providing a wizard might be appropriate.
    Even technically sophisticated users should be considered new users if they are unfamiliar with your application or with its subject area--for example, accounting.
  • Is the task usually performed in a fixed order?
    If so, consider implementing a wizard. If not--for example, if users need to organize data in different ways--consider another kind of user interface for the task.
  • Is the application automating a significant part of the task?
    Wizards are most useful when they automate most of a user's task. For example, after asking a software developer just a few questions, a wizard might create more than 1,000 lines of customized source code for the developer's current project.
  • Can you design a more direct or more efficient way for users to perform this task?
Wizards are not always the best user interface for experienced users. Such users dislike answering questions that seem irrelevant to the task. If you provide a wizard for a task within an application, also provide alternative ways to perform the same task, unless the wizard automates a significant part of the task--as when installing software or creating complex objects.

A well-designed wizard helps users perform a task step-by-step and enables them to customize how the wizard performs the task. If a task needs a wizard, find out which parts of that task most users will perform. Then, design the wizard to meet the needs of those users. Omit rarely needed steps if you can provide another way to perform those steps.

Java Look and Feel Design Guidelines: Advanced Topics.
Copyright 2001. Sun Microsystems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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